Dr. Robert A. Nicholson, president emeritus of Anderson University and Dr. Michael Collette, vice-president for Enrollment Management and Information Systems, helped found the School of Adult Learning (SOAL) in 1987 with the hope that it would support and serve the local community of Anderson and Madison County. "It started out of a commitment to our mission, our community and this area," said Collette.
Twenty years later SOAL still serves that purpose.
"It's been exciting for us to serve adults in the city of Anderson for the past 20 years," said Dr. Aleza Beverly, Dean of the School of Adult Learning. "Because many of them are from Anderson, a large portion of them stay in Anderson after they graduate. We are helping the community grow because we invest in them, and they pour their skills back into the community."
Beverly has been the Dean for 18 of SOAL's 20-year history. "We were looking for ways to attract adults to AU by offering classes at a reduced tuition rate," Beverly said.
Since SOAL's conception, affordability has been one of its key distinguishing factors. "We offer classes at a reduced rate to adult ed students in the community," said Beverly said. "Our students pay about two-thirds of what traditional students pay. It's been about like that since we started."
SOAL originally placed priority on offering night classes, which kept students relatively uninvolved in the campus community. Much has changed. "The idea was that our students would work during the day and take evening classes. However, a large number of adult students take both day and evening classes," Beverly said. "A good number become part of the community on campus."
20 years ago, SOAL offered associates degrees in general business, general studies and secretarial studies. Today, SOAL has adapted to better meet the needs of the community by offering associates degrees in general studies and management foundations, a bachelors of science in organizational leadership and a certified manager program.
Beverly said, "We're always exploring the possibility of new majors. Our challenge is to find new ways to meet the needs of community members with new programs and majors."
"One area we are excited to see grow is our Professional Development Center," said Beverly. "The PDC helps businesses and individuals create training and development materials. It assists them in writing resources and offers classes to the organization, and it can all be done on site at the AU Flagship Center."
"The PDC can help organizations create training and development material. We also help organizations with similar needs partner with each other," said Beverly.
"Ultimately, helping our students reach their goals and be successful makes us successful," said Beverly.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.